Have you ever considered that every part of your life depends upon nature?
From your clothes, food, and the items you have around you at home, to how you travel, and how you communicate. Every part of your life has been made possible because of nature; its resources, and the services it provides.
There are four main types of services that ecosystems and nature provides to society:
- Supporting services
- Provisioning services
- Regulating services
- Cultural services
Supporting services encompass the functions and processes that underpin the other services which include: plant production, soil processes that regulate carbon transformations and storage and water purification, water storage, flow regulation, groundwater recharge.
Soils forms the basic substrate of all terrestrial ecosystems. They are physically, biologically, and chemically diverse and are the interface between the atmosphere and the lithosphere.
Soils contain a wide range of organisms that perform the function of ecosystem engineers, manipulating the soil structure and creating their own habitat. These species play a large role in the regulation of many of the processes that occur in the soil, and the services that depend on them – in particular agricultural production and the ultimate provision of our food.
Soil ecosystems help to decompose organic matter and thus recycle nutrients and form more soil. Good quality and biodiverse soils helps to underpin the other services that nature provides to society – such as the services that provide us with the essentials of life, and those that regulate the environment that makes life liveable for us and other species.
Provisioning services include products derived from nature’s ecosystems: soils, forests, fisheries, animals, wetlands, and waterways. The base products we benefit from are food, fibre, raw materials, and timber. In more detail:
Food (including seafood and game), crops, wild foods, and spices, raw materials (including lumber, skins, fuel wood, organic matter, fodder, and fertiliser), genetic resources (including crop improvement genes, and health care), water, Biogenic minerals, medicinal resources (including pharmaceuticals, chemical models, and test and assay organisms), energy (hydropower, biomass fuels), ornamental resources (including fashion, handicraft, jewellery, pets, worship, decoration and souvenirs like furs, feathers, ivory, orchids, butterflies, aquarium fish, shells, etc.)
These services include carbon sequestration and climate regulation, waste decomposition and detoxification, purification of water and air, pest and disease control, erosion regulation, disease regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation
Maintaining the quality of air and soil, providing flood and disease control, or pollinating crops are regulating services provided by nature. These are the things that are often invisible and taken for granted. When they are damaged the losses that result can be devastating and difficult to restore.
Cultural ecosystem services are the non-material benefits that people obtain from nature. They include the use of nature as motif in books, film, painting, folklore, national symbols, architect, advertising, spiritual and historical (including use of nature for religious or heritage value).
They contribute to a sense of place, encourage social cohesion, and are essential for our mental health and wellbeing
Cultural ecosystems are difficult to measure compared to the other more science based services. People experience nature in a myriad of ways and to different depths. Responses to nature can have deep and personal meanings and can provoke strong reactions (both positive and negative).